Geir Skeie of Norway has taken the gold medal at the 2009 Bocuse d’Or
, the world’s most highly regarded cooking competition, held every two years in Lyon, France.
Established by revered French chef Paul Bocuse in 1987, the Bocuse unites the world’s culinary talent (both as competitors and as judges) in two days of battle. On Tuesday, chefs had just five and a half hours to prepare twelve identical portions of both meat and seafood dishes, using the competition’s provided ingredients. Contestants could contribute their own supporting ingredients to each dish. For seafood, chefs were provided with Norwegian cod, scallops and wild prawns (the last of which, to many chefs’ surprise, arrived frozen). The meat dish revolved around beef fillet, cheeks, ribs, and oxtail.
While respected chefs such as Thomas Keller (in the audience) and Daniel Boulud (on the judge’s panel) watch or advise, competitors tended to be younger and fitter, the sort of second-in-command chefs accustomed to fast-pace cooking and calm under fire. This year’s early favorites included the eventual winner Geir Skeie from Norway, who trained under Odd Ivar Solvold, a previous Bocuse winner; the French, always contenders, sent Philippe Mille, a chef at Paris’s Michelin three-starred Le Meurice. Although those two nations traditionally vie for first place, this year’s American contestant, Timothy Hollingsworth, made a major push of his own. The sous chef at universally acclaimed French Laundry, he has trained extensively with Thomas Keller, under the guidance of Daniel Boulud—and Hollingsworth has focused on this competition alone since his qualifying win last September.
However, it was Geir Skeie from Norway who took the gold medal; Paris-based Swedish chef Jonas Lundgren walked away with the silver. In a surprisingly poor showing, French Philippe Mille took the bronze, penalized for presenting his fish platter one minute late, automatically docking him twelve of sixty points for that dish.
American chef Hollingsworth, despite the training and support behind him, came in sixth—not what he had hoped, but a respectable performance that tied the record for the best American showing at Bocuse d’Or. In the meantime, Norway, Sweden and France will live on as the teams to beat.
Reporting from the New York Times, Food and Wine Magazine, and LA Times.